E.g., 04/20/2024
E.g., 04/20/2024
Coordination Breakdown: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Migration in Europe

In many ways, Europe was better positioned than other world regions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on cross-border mobility. It had robust coordinating institutions and an existing freedom of movement agreement, as well as strong scientific capacities, social protection systems, and economies. But despite these advantages, COVID-19’s arrival largely halted movement both within and from outside the European Union, with heavy consequences for societies and economies across the bloc.

Migration policy priorities in Europe since early 2022 have pivoted toward managing the arrival of several million displaced Ukrainians, but it is important not to lose sight of the pandemic’s lessons. These include the value of coordinated, thoughtful action (as evidenced by the adoption of the EU Digital COVID Certificate that helped restart cross-border movement) as well as the challenges to regional cooperation in times of crisis.

This report is part of a series of studies by MPI’s Task Force on Mobility and Borders during and after COVID-19 that explores opportunities to improve international coordination regarding border management during public-health crises. Other regional case studies in this series look at Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa, and South America. Thematic studies consider the role of digital health credentials in facilitating movement, the use of risk analysis to shape border policies, and the rise of remote work and “digital nomads.” A final capstone issue brief reflects on lessons for future public-health emergencies.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  The COVID-19 Pandemic and Mobility Restrictions in Europe

3  Labor and Other Forms of Regular Migration

4  Irregular Migration, Asylum, and Return

5  Pandemic Impacts on Labor Markets and Migrant Workers
A. Third-Country National Workforce
B. Intra-EU Workforce
C. The United Kingdom
D. Seasonal Workers

6  Three New Policy Trends during the Pandemic
A. Reopening the European Union: The EU Digital COVID Certificate
B. Digitalization of Immigration Processes
C. Skilled Labor Programs

7  Conclusion